Mary Spio shows us that with great risk comes great reward. Her sharp mind and fortitude have enabled her to not only become a rocket scientist, but also an entrepreneur, patent holder, and digital media expert.
Mary was born in Syracuse, NY. When she was four, her parents decided to return to their home of Ghana. Interested in Mary having an American education, they sent her back to the States to attend high school in South Carolina. Unfortunately, her environment was not conducive to people who were different. Called “The African” by classmates and even teachers, and teased for having a different accent, Mary did not feel encouraged after graduation. When she finished high school she took a job at a local McDonald’s, a job she felt confident to do. She then enlisted in the Air Force where she gained skills as a Satellite Communications Technician and, subsequently, used the GI Bill to go to college in her birthplace of Syracuse, NY. When she graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering, it was hard to believe that just a few years earlier she felt like working a low wage position was her only option. Mary did not end her education endeavors there. She continued at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she received an MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and further proved her ability to excel in engineering and technology.
Despite her family being perplexed by her career choice of space engineering, she pressed on. Her first job out of school was at Pan American Satellite as a Satellite Applications Engineer – essentially a rocket scientist. Boeing is where she went next, where her engineering career began to soar. At just 26 years old, she became the Head of Satellite Communications Systems, and not only did her work result in issuing several patents, but she also prompted Boeing to create a new division of the corporation, Boeing Digital Cinema. But something she saw on the news one day changed everything. She watched a segment describing how many people in the country were, like her, married to their jobs. This realization prompted her to start One2OneMag.com, an online dating site geared towards busy single professionals. She started by moonlighting while at Boeing, but despite her doubts from her family and friends, she went for it full time. Over the next few years she would start two more companies: E360 and her current company, Gen2Media. At Gen2Media, she has taken her technology and digital media expertise to build a cutting-edge interactive digital video technology, marketing, production and media company. With large brands and major companies as clients, Gen2Media seems well positioned for success in a fast-paced and evolving industry.
Mary has accomplished more in her mid 30s than many have accomplished in double that time. Some of her awards and accomplishments include the Yueh-Ying Hu Memorial National Award for Innovation, an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Essence Magazine’s Top 15 Women of Power. Most recently, Mary was selected for a USA Today panel of senior leaders to advise the national media property on leadership trends a few times a year.
Her latest project? Verve, a show described as Rock Band meets America’s Got Talent, that will allow online users to vote on independent music artists. And, as Wired Magazine put it, that will probably be “harder than selling Big Macs-but probably easier than building rockets.”